No one will need an introduction to what Pokémon Go is. Even me. I’m not at all into Pokémon or any other games and cartoons from the time of my childhood, simply as it’s just not my cup of tea, but I still have a very good idea of what it is, and where it is going. But I am into great marketing hooks. And Pokémon Go, as well as being a nostalgic childhood throwback for some, is a huge marketing hook.
The game released earlier this year by Niantic, the Google start-up has already reportedly cashed in over $14 million in profit, topped the charts of both the IOS App Store and Google Play Store, as well as having a DAU (Daily Active Users) figure which puts Snapchat, Spotify and Instagram to shame. It has been an absolute hit. Even with not wanting to spend a single second on it, I can see why.
Seeing it from the outside, as a non-player, helps me realise that it’s not a game, as much as it is the ideal marketing ‘hook’ for the specific target audience. Disguised in the childhood throwback nostalgia for many out there, is one of the greatest reasons for local businesses to take advantage of this. Within days of it being released, we’ve all heard of cases of random house’s being chosen as ‘gyms’, where tons of Pokémon Go players would inevitably turn up to train their virtual possessions. There was one very popular case of a man in the US, who happened to live in what used to be a church many years ago, still recognised to the Pokémon Go map as a ‘tourist attraction’ or a ‘popular location’. Naturally, the guy wasn’t impressed at what the app has done to the privacy of his home, or at least the view from the window. At the time (2 weeks ago) this was a funny story, until shop keepers and bar/restaurant owners, that are up to date with their marketing potential, caught up to the fact that they could use this as a major advantage, especially in a bigger city.
Restaurant and shop keepers that are lucky enough to have a gym or Pokéstop right on their place of business are making the most of this to pull members of certain Pokémon teams into their tills. This is taking marketing opportunities at its best. A lot of places have already reported discounts and offers for specific teams, or generally Pokémon players in the area. These are often offers along the lines of ‘10% of if you’re on team (whatever)’ or ‘free Wi-Fi for Pokémon players if you buy a drink.’ Believe it or not, it works, seeing as the average user spends 50 minutes on the app a day, which is definitely enough for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Another method, which is currently being practiced in the US only, but I assume will soon make its way over to Europe, is the equivalent of using social influencers to pull customers into your place of business. For those who are not aware, ‘social influencers’ are regular people, often with a lot of followers on Instagram or Twitter, who are paid by brands and businesses to post a ‘recommendation’ of their product directly to their feed. You will often see a post of a 1k + follower Instagram account revolving around a post-workout selfie, with a bottle of ‘branded energy drink’ and a caption which will recommend the drink to the followers. The brand gets a free shout-out to the correct target market, and the influencer gets paid based on how many potential clients they can reach. This is exactly the model which is starting to circulate around the states. Local restaurant owners are paying Pokémon players to drop ‘lures’ right outside their place of business. A lure is an exact location that any player can set on a Pokéstop, in order to ‘lure’ other players to go to it, so that they can play the game together. This also spawns a higher chance of catching more Pokémon, which is why a lot of users are persuaded to the spot every time one appears near their area. Do you see why this is genius yet? How handy, that a lure is placed right outside an affordable burger place in the middle of the New York suburbs on a Saturday lunchtime. Marketing at its best.
Having said all this, Pokémon lures do have their disadvantages, which I presume Niantic will be putting their foot down on soon. Some less noble players have been found to be setting lures in the likes of unpopulated areas or dark alleyways, again to ‘lure’ legit players into the area, for the sole purpose to mug them and steal everything they have on them, including their innocence. In a way, I admire their entrepreneurship, although the very idea is sick, twisted and they should be banned and dealt with appropriately as thieves.
To conclude, Pokémon Go has given us all an insight into how much, let’s face it, a game spawned from a children’s franchise, can do for local businesses and brands in terms of marketing. It goes to show that what you as a brand care about, means nothing, compared to what your customers care about. ‘Get with the times’ has never been more appropriate.
By Denis Brzozowski